Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #25: Fabookulous July 26, 2010

Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook

Book description:

Just when Jill Murray has finally figured out how to manage on her own, her ex-husband proves that he can’t even run away reliably. After seven long years missing in action, he’s back- crashing into the man-free existence Jill and her ten-year-old daughter have built so carefully. What’s a good mother to do? To a child, even a deadbeat dad is better than no dad at all.

Jill’s life just hasn’t turned out quite the way she planned. By now, she’d hoped to be jetting around the world as a high-end cultural coach. Instead, she’s answering phones for a local travel agency and teaching cooking classes at the community center.

Enter free-spirited entrepreneur Billy, who hires Jill as a consultant for an upcoming business trip. Is their relationship veering off in a new direction? And what about her ex? Jill couldn’t possibly still have feelings for him…could she? Suddenly, her no-boys-allowed life is anything but.

They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, but Jill isn’t sure she’s ready for the big change. It takes a Costa Rican getaway to help her make a choice- not so much between the two men in her life, but between the woman she is and the one she wants to be.

If you’re looking for another fun summer read, you’ve come to the right place! Claire Cook has made two appearances on our blog this year as LibraryLove reviewed The Wildwater Walking Club last month. What surprises me most about this author is she wrote her first book in her minivan while waiting for her daughter’s swim practice to end. Now she is a bestselling author of books such as Life’s a Beach, Must Love Dogs, and Summer Blowout. Now that’s impressive! After reading my first Claire Cook novel, I can see how she’s charmed so many and I look forward to reading more of her novels.

Written with a fresh wit that has that satisfying mix of sarcasm, Claire Cook writes an entertaining read. The main character, Jill, is well versed in her culture while she teaches a Lunch Around the World Class and works for a travel agency organizing Great Girlfriend Getaways (talk about fun!) for women looking to explore, get away, or discover a new place. The variety of locales and culture will scoop you off your feet and instantly put you in daydream mode.

At 237 pages (and very short chapters),  it felt like there were too many story lines going on: Jill’s relationship with her boss and her boss’ decisions, the pesky neighbor, Jill’s single mom relationship with her ten year old, the Lunch Around the World class, the ex husband’s return, the travel agency job, and the new guy, Billy. Phew! Seems like a lot, right? And all of this is jammed into 237 pages.

That being said, I wish Cook would have elaborated more and explored more in depth to Jill and her emotions and connections to those around her (both from the past and in the present.) Without giving anything away, there were scenes that surprised me without having an understanding of why Jill did or had a desire to do some of the things she did. I guess I’ve just read a lot of novels this year (well, duh!), but a lot of novels that have made me (the reader) feel like I really know the characters. With Jill, it seemed to have a “going-through-the-motions” vibe throughout the whole book.

While still interesting and entertaining, I wish there were another 150 pages so I could hang out with Jill more without feeling rushed. Claire Cook has such a refreshing sense of humor that I know I’d enjoy another novel written by her. In the meantime, if you don’t know what to take to the beach or pool with you, grab Seven Year Switch and let yourself be whisked away to far away places, both near and far.

4/5 stars

Happy Summer Reading,

Up next for Fabookulous:

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason


Book #33 LibraryLove June 19, 2010

The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

Book description~ After losing her boyfriend and her job in one fell swoop, Noreen finds it hard to know what the next step is—never mind take it. For the first time in a great many years, Noreen has time to herself. So she puts on a new pair of sneakers and a seriously outdated pair of exercise pants, and walks. It isn’t long before she’s joined by neighbors Tess and Rosie, two women as lost as she is. As the Wildwater women walk and talk, and talk and walk, they tally their steps, share their secrets, and begin putting their lives back together. And along the way, they learn what women everywhere are finding out—time flies, and getting fit is actually fun when you’re walking with friends.

What I often miss from many of our fellow bloggers’ reviews is what drew them to pick up the book they are reviewing! There are so many ways I get inspired to read different books. What or who inspired you to pick up the book you’re reading?

From the bright flip flops on the cover to the intriguing title, stumbling upon this novel was quite serendipitous. I first saw Wildwater Walking Club advertised in a daily edition of Shelf Awareness, one of my favorite book trade publications, advertising the newest books available for advanced review to bloggers and where special giveaways are announced.  I entered a ‘beach reads’ giveaway and although I didn’t win, I immediately checked out WWC from my local library. Then, randomly I received a Facebook friend request from author Claire Cook after she saw the blog link on fellow author Beth Hoffman’s page! What a fun small world.

From the very first page I was hooked. Cook wrote such a fun and refreshing read! Who knew a breakup with a scum bucket, boxes of sneakers, a pedometer, a corporate buyout AND retractable clothesline art could bring such unlikely ladies together?? Well it did! Forty-something ex-sneaker marketer/developer, Noreen,  makes a less-than clean break from slimeball Michael. With her life in flux, taking the first step is the hardest. As part of her corporate buyout, Noreen is entitled to a huge discount on the sneakers she once developed. Taking advantage of that final discount, Noreen grabs stacks of sneakers and two of her neighborhood gal pals and they start the Wildwater Walking Club, as a diversion from their complicated lives.

I love how flawed Noreen’s character is. It’s easier to relate to characters who aren’t perfect. Noreen, as I say, acts as a “ground wire” for the two women she ends up forming a walking club with. The ladies walk the neighborhood every day and record their steps with pedometers.  They plan future vacations, discuss life, love, their uncertain futures, and most important of all, learn to move forward when their lives throws monkey wrenches into the mix. I thoroughly enjoyed the gardening tie-in as lavender plays an important and unexpected role as a character in this book! The ladies plan to ‘pool their pedometer mileage’ and trip over to attend a nearby lavender festival. Noreen and Rosie’s bond strengthens as they tend to the lavender and discover fun lavender recipes like MY personal favorite, lavender black currant champagne (heavenly)!!  Lavender’s solid, calming and rejuvenating presence plays such an important role in setting the foundation for this easy breezy summer read.

I grew up watching my parents tending to their backyard pool/waterfall gardens, front rolling hill and arbor areas year after year.  When you walk up to my parents’ front door, the expansive and fragrant lavender greets you with all the butterflies and bees loving the oasis. It sparked my green thumb and when my husband and I bought our home, I also learned an appreciation for gardening. Orchids and flowering herbs are my absolute favorite, but I love the solidarity of rubber plants and our beautifully rare and draping cultivar rosemary in the front. It’s a quietly slow and steady hobby, but it’s so rewarding seeing new buds, stalks, and petals take form out of nowhere…

WWC was a story of second chances, redemption, starting from scratch and being strong enough to demand what you want at any age. A few of my very close friends are dealing with many seriously hard-hitting issues in their lives right now and ladies if you’re out there, you would really enjoy this book. I think we all can benefit from a fresh start in one way or another and WWC is an uplifting and fun read that left me with a smile on my face. Take “that first step” and toss WWC into your beach/pool bag today!

I look forward to reading Cook’s other works in the near future. And Claire, PLEASE add the Nation’s Capitol to your book tour (pretty please) 😉

Before I head out-of-town for a business trip, here are two recipes from the book that I couldn’t help but share.

For all you walkers out there, enjoy!

Aches Away Lavender Tea Soak

1 c lavender

½  c chamomile

¼ c sage

¼ c rosemary

6 crushed bay leaves

Mix all ingredients. Fill a metal tea ball, muslin, or organza bag. Hang on the tap or float under warm  running water in tub. Climb in and soak liberally to relax muscles, increase circulation, soften body and re-energize soul.

Lavender Dream Pillow

½  c lavender buds

½  c rose petals

½ c crushed mint leaves

3 drops peppermint oil

6 drops lavender essential oil

Mix all ingredients and fill 6-by-12 inch rectangular pillow. Place over your eyes to encourage a restful, rejuvenating sleep, and to make all your dreams come true. 😉

Don’t forget to enter our FREE summer giveaway. Click here for details! Winner announced Wednesday!

4.5/5 stars

33 down, 19 to go!

In progress, A Little Bit Wicked




Here is a photo of the enormous lavender plant at the entrance to my parents beautiful home:

Here is a photo of just a fraction of the lush landscaping around their backyard pool, the result of a decade of care: